The number one cause of preventable hearing loss is loud noise. Music, farm equipment, firecrackers, noisy stadiums and heavy machinery are examples of the recreational and workplace sounds which can damage hearing. Excellent earplugs and ear protectors are available and can help prevent injury in noisy situations.
Annual examinations by Ear-Nose-Throat specialists can help to discover medical conditions before they result in hearing damage.
Newborns should be tested for hearing loss at birth, and every few months for the first year. Advanced testing methods for babies are now available at many hospitals.
Children should be immunized against the basic childhood diseases, such as mumps, as many of them cause hearing loss.
Otitis media (middle ear infection) is the number one cause of acquired hearing loss in children. Parents should monitor young children and infants for signs of otitis media, such as ear pain, fussiness, ear-tugging and inattentiveness. Children and babies with colds, fevers or sore throats should always be seen by a doctor, as these conditions are often connected to otitis media and can lead to permanent hearing impairment.
Nothing should ever be inserted into the ear canal; even cotton-tipped swabs can injure the eardrum and damage hearing.
Some drugs have side effects which damage hearing. Be sure to ask about this potential problem before taking a new medication, even if it has been prescribed or recommended by a doctor.
Always check with a doctor before flying with a cold or while congested; he or she may prescribe medication to protect the ears against changes in air pressure.
No one should accept diminished hearing acuity as a matter of course at any age: medical treatment and assistive devices can help, and a physician should always be consulted when changes in hearing are suspected.